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Cronkite, ABA ‘Hooked’ Documentary Leads to National Campaign to Combat Heroin

September 14, 2016

The National Association of Broadcasters is launching a nationwide campaign to combat heroin and opioid addiction, in part due to an award-winning documentary produced by Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication and the Arizona Broadcasters Association.

The NAB is teaming up with the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids, a national nonprofit committed to fighting substance use, to raise awareness of the opioid epidemic through on-air public service announcements, special news reports and online initiatives. The campaign builds upon the duPont Award-winning documentary “Hooked: Tracking Heroin’s Hold on Arizona,” produced by the Cronkite School and the ABA.

The Tuesday press conference in Washington, D.C., included a bipartisan group of members of Congress who spoke in support of the NAB/Partnership for Drug-Free Kids campaign, including Arizona Sen. John McCain, who urged people to watch “Hooked.” During the press conference, he said Arizona has experienced a 44 percent increase in heroin-related deaths in the past two years.

“I’m proud of the work of the students at the Cronkite School of Journalism at ASU, who effectively helped tell the story of addiction with a documentary on heroin use in our state,” McCain said. “The film received national recognition, and with the help of the Arizona Broadcasters Association, reached over 1 million Arizonans.”

In addition to McCain, R-Ariz., the bipartisan group who showed support for the NAB campaign, included Sens. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Chris Murphy, D-Conn., and Reps. Judy Chu, D-Calif., Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., and Frank Pallone, D-N.J.

During the conference, NAB President Gordon Smith also pointed to “Hooked” as an exemplar in spotlighting the crisis, saying that “it inspired countless viewers and listeners to take action.”

“Hooked” traced the rise of heroin use and its impact on Arizonans through the stories of addicts struggling with sobriety, families grappling for solace, and law enforcement officials battling on the frontlines. The 30-minute documentary aired in January 2015 on all 33 Arizona broadcast television and 93 radio stations in both English and Spanish. It made its national broadcast debut on Link TV in February 2016.

More than 70 students and eight faculty members worked on the project under the direction of Cronkite Professor of Practice Jacquee Petchel, a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist. The project was part of Cronkite News, the student-produced news division of Arizona PBS.

“We have been amazed by the impact of this important piece of journalism,” said Cronkite School Dean Christopher Callahan. “Our students helped spark a nationwide dialogue on this terrible epidemic. We are thrilled the NAB and the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids are joining us on shining a light on this important issue.”

Art Brooks, president and CEO of the ABA, developed the idea for “Hooked” after learning of the seriousness of the issue and organized the backing of the state’s broadcast industry.

“There is no doubt ‘Hooked’ played a key role in showing what community-minded local broadcasters can accomplish in this present crisis with heroin and opioids,” Brooks said. “The national PSA plan of the NAB and the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids is to reach every American with information about the dangers of addiction that too often leads to overdose and death.”

Since airing, the documentary has received numerous awards, including an Alfred I. duPont-Columbia Award, which marked the first time a student project has won the award and just the third time in the 74-year history of the contest that a Phoenix-based news operation has received the honor.

“Hooked” also has received a prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award from the Society of Professional Journalists and two of the region’s top professional honors at the Rocky Mountain Emmy Awards: an Emmy in the category of “Societal Concerns – Program/Special” and the Governors’ Award. It also took first place in video storytelling at the Arizona Press Club Awards.

In April, the documentary won the National Association of Broadcasters Education Foundation’s President’s Special Award, a top honor from the NAB.